Last week a friend requested I go to her grocery store next, so I did! The Kroger on Clinton by Coliseum was a pleasant surprise. They had bulk bins with a small, but decent variety of options. Although it didn’t score as high as Fresh Thyme, it did pretty well for a big name grocery store. So let’s take a look at the rubric and see where Kroger excels and epically fails.
- Bulk Bins with a variety of options. (1 point)
+ 1 point. Kroger does not have a big variety, but they have enough that you could get a lot of staples in bulk. No coffee though.
- Refill stations for oils, vinegars, honey, nut butters, etc. (1 point)
+ 1/2 point. They had a peanut butter and almond butter dispenser but no oils, vinegars, etc…
- Bulk dried herbs and spices. (1 point)
+ 0 point
- Most produce is available without packaging. (1 point)
+ 1/2 point: They have a lot of package free produce and I was super excited to find mushrooms without plastic trays. I thought that was a hopeless pursuit. I was absolutely appalled to find sweet potatoes on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic. Why? WHY?! Answer me, Kroger!
- Bread without packaging. (1 point)
+ 0 points. I asked the bakery if they could give me a loaf without packaging, but it didn’t go well. I think the manager was having a bad day, so I didn’t push it. Luckily, Fresh Thyme was around the corner and I picked up some fresh bread after I left Kroger.
Meat without packaging. 1 point
+ 1 point. SUCCESS! I finally needed meat and felt brave enough to ask. Chicken breasts were on sale and that peppered bacon was calling my name. The lady who helped me was super nice about my jars. I briefly explained my project and she thought it was a great idea. I did have to take a sticker for the cashier to scan, but that’s better than buying meat with all the other packaging. I was definitely the first person to bring my own jars to get meat there. I mean, who does that? I do… well now I do anyway.
- Cheese without packaging. 1 point
+ 0 points.* I didn’t need cheese on this trip, but I could probably make it happen since I was able to talk the meat counter into using my jars.
- Hygiene products without packaging. (1 point)
- Necessary packaging that can be brought back and reused (i.e. egg cartons). (1 point)
- Positive experience using my own bags and/or containers. (1 point)
+1 point: Overall it was a good experience, but I could tell the staff was not used to people using their own bags and containers.
Bonus Point: Toddler friendly. +1 As with most big name grocery stores, it’s relatively easy and safe to bring kids along. The bakery offered cookies for the boys, but I declined because I was hoping they’d take a nap on the way home. Sugar was not going to help matters.
Kroger’s final score: 5* points
*I need to revisit to see if I can get cheese and maybe catch the bakery on a good day. To be honest though, I’m really digging the Fresh Thyme bread. The multigrain loaf was killer on the sandwiches I made for lunch when we got home (pictured on the right). High quality ingredients can take something simple and make it delicious. I fried up some of the peppered bacon and chicken breasts, sliced some cheddar, sliced cucumbers, and piled on some lettuce and spinach. I also put some mayo on there because we have it and we might as well use it up. I’m not gonna lie, I love mayo. I know it’s gross and bad for you, but I have an affinity for it. Don’t tell anyone, but I ate mayo sandwiches when I was little. Yes, mayo and bread sandwiches. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Other considerations for the eco-conscious crowd:
- Ability to safely walk or bike to location: Nope.
- Locally sourced products: I think I remember some products were local, but to be honest I’m pretty tired right now and I could have imagined that. Need. More. Coffee.
- Is the company dedicated to eco-friendly practices?: Eh. Definitely better than Walmart because of their bulk options and they had a better variety of produce without packaging. However, I can’t consider a business eco friendly when they allow packaged sweet potatoes through their door.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of what I bought, the price, and its packaging status.
Completely naked produce and misc. (no plastic, rubber bands, twist ties, or stickers)
• Sunflower Seeds ($1.69/lb.) 1.13 lbs. = $1.91
• Trail Mix ($10.99/lb.) 1.24 lbs. = $13.63
• Green Beans ($1.49/lb.) 0.66 lb. = $0.98
• Red Potatoes ($0.99/lb.) 1.75 lbs. = $1.73
• Cucumbers (3 for $2.00) 2 = $1.34
• Mushrooms ($4.99/lb.) 0.56 lb. = $2.79
• Broccoli ($1.49/lb.) 0.70 lb. = $1.04
• Carrots ($0.99/lb.) 1.21 lb. = $1.20
Free of plastic, but with stickers, rubber bands, or twist ties.
• Chicken Breasts ($1.99/lb.) 2 lbs = $3.98
• Bacon ($3.99/lb.) 1.05 lbs. = $4.19
• Bananas ($0.55/lb.) 4.21 lbs. = $2.32
• Oranges (3 for $2.00) 3 = $2.00
• Green Pepper $0.89
• Fuji Apples (3 for $0.99) 4 = $1.32
• Red Leaf Lettuce $0.99
• Spinach $1.49
• Asparagus ($2.99/lb.) 0.94 lb. = $2.81
No package free or refillable options
• Milk $2.89
• Half and Half (small carton) $2.99
• Cauliflower $2.99
• Yogurt $3.59
• Butter $3.29
Grand Total: $60.36
My Final Takeaway: If you only have Kroger or Walmart to choose from, Kroger is a much better option for zero waste shopping. I wish all big name grocery stores had at least a few bulk bins. It makes such a big difference. I’m definitely looking forward to going back to a grocery store that is more accustomed to their customers bringing their own bags and jars. Although my experience wasn’t negative, it just wasn’t as positive as my trip to Fresh Thyme last week. I really hope I can find a store that doesn’t have any unnecessary packaging on the produce. I’d prefer our money go to a store that doesn’t even let that crap in the door. Sweet potatoes wrapped in plastic is inconvenient. Instead of just grabbing a single potato, you have to rip the plastic open and throw away the non-recyclable materials. Waste of time, energy, and materials.
Last night when I was prepping and planning for my trip, I made my own labels for my bulk bags. I realized that using the store’s stickers or twist ties to indicate my bin number was unnecessary waste. So I cut up some leftover rsvp cards from our wedding that I hung on to because I’m a hoarder, and I attached them to the drawstrings. I also weighed the bags so I could put their tare on the tags as well. The cashier seemed to be a bit confused by my bags so I didn’t make her subtract the tare from everything, but in the future it would be nice to save some pennies. They do add up after awhile.
Also, check out my setup for shopping. I have a mommy hook that is normally for a diaper bag or purse, but I use it for my totes. I fold the smaller bags up and place them in the bigger bags to keep things organized and easy to grab. I also stuff my glass jars in-between the bags so they are padded and safe from getting busted. You can also see my pencil hanging out on one of the interior pockets.
I just hook it all to handle and it keeps everything out of reach from little hands, and frees up space in my cart. This isn’t a necessary step, but it helps me. Bonus: huge totes make it easy to carry everything in the house in a single trip. Yes, I’m one of those ridiculous people who will risk throwing out their backs and cutting off circulation just so they don’t have to make multiple trips out to the car. Well, that’s it for this week folks. I think next week I’ll be going to the Co-op and I’m very excited to feature a local business!